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ECONOMICS REPORT - Big in Texas: Energy Company Agrees to a Record Buyout

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This is the VOA Special English Economics Report.

TXU logo
TXU logo

Big business deals do not often come with a promise to cut greenhouse gases. But that was part of a deal this week for TXU, the biggest electric company in Texas. Its board of directors agreed to a buyout offer led by two private equity groups, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts and Texas Pacific.

They are offering to buy all shares in TXU and take the company private. That means it would stop trading on a public stock exchange.

A leverage buyout depends heavily on borrowed money, often for the purpose of selling the company later. This leveraged buyout would be the biggest yet -- an estimated value of around forty-five billion dollars, including debt.

KKR and Texas Pacific Group would take responsibility for more than twelve billion dollars owed by TXU. They would add twenty-four billion dollars in new debt through borrowing to finance the sale.

The proposal calls for them to each pay two billion dollars in cash. Investment banks would provide an additional three billion dollars. And banks would also provide a one billion dollar unsecured loan known as an "equity bridge."

One of the unusual things about this proposal is that utilities are not a traditional target of leveraged buyouts. Utilities provide public services like power and water.

TXU just reported two and one-half billion dollars in profits last year, up fifty percent from the year before. But utilities often have a lot of debt because of high operating costs. At the same time, states may limit rates if prices rise too high.

Most unusual about the deal, however, are the promises made by KKR and Texas Pacific. These buyout specialist groups say they will cut electricity prices ten percent and offer "price protection" through September of two thousand eight.

Also, to reduce carbon emissions linked to climate change, they promise to build fewer power stations that burn coal than TXU had planned. And they promise to explore greater use of alternative and renewable fuels. Two activist groups, Environmental Defense and the Natural Resources Defense Council, supported the deal.

Critics, however, say TXU may be worth more than what is being offered. Shareholders cannot vote on the proposal before April sixteenth. For now, the company may consider any competing offers.

And that's the VOA Special English Economics Report. This week, the top story in financial markets was the sudden flight from risk. A full report -- tomorrow on the program IN THE NEWS. I'm Mario Ritter.

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